At Holiday Parties, Enforce Rules, Celebrate Inclusion

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Dec. 1 — Holiday party season is in full swing, so employers may want to remind their staffs that workplace rules of conduct apply at office celebrations, Michael J. Eastman, attorney at management-side firm NT Lakis LLP, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 1.

Eastman said some employees forget that company anti-harassment and other conduct policies apply during company holiday events, especially at those occurring off-site or outside of working hours.

“Both employees and managers should be reminded that company conduct rules apply. In some cases, it may help to remind managers that they should intervene if they see a situation that may cross the line,” he said.

Alcohol can create big problems at employer celebrations. According to Eastman, some employers offer to pay cab fare for employees to ensure they don't drive under the influence. If alcohol is being served at an office party, employers also may wish to use professional bartenders trained to avoid over-serving guests, he said.

“The precise steps that employers should take may vary considerably, depending on circumstances, but taking the time to ensure that everyone knows the rules will go a long way toward reducing the potential for mishaps,” Eastman said.

“Focus on food and fellowship, and not what's being served at the bar,” advised Kate Zabriskie, a consultant with Business Training Works, a Maryland-based business training provider. “That doesn't mean don't serve alcohol; it does mean not making it a focus,” she told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 25.

The best way to prevent employees from violating company conduct policies is to have behavior expectations in writing, Zabriskie said.

Setting an end time for events that start with cocktails can also help employers manage employee behavior at holiday parties, Zabriskie said.